September 2013


For to set the mind on flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8: 6

 

God made a choice; He wants to be with us. He desires our companionship and our worship. He could leave us in our lost states, and He could walk away when we start to live like the lost again; but then He wouldn’t be the one true God. For the Lord has made promises to us, and He shows us a clear picture of who He is and of how He behaves. God has been demonstrating His faithful love and His unending involvement with people through all of history, and in demonstration of this, He has been holding onto me for as long as I can remember.

 

Yet, I have made a lot of choices in my life that were not so good. I continue to make choices that are clearly not in God’s plan for me, and in these thoughts and actions I have a lot of company. Everyone faces struggles like this; for, we all make the decision to sin, and it is easy to rationalize and to say that I was just caught off-guard or that it was the bad behavior of someone else that sent me over the edge. But, speaking truth, the sinful things that we do are the result of personal choice. And that choice leads to a form of death, for it separates us from God’s will and from the intimate, close relationship that we have with Him. Isaiah said it this way,

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59: 2)

 

Thus, choosing to think, to act, and to live like someone who does not know Christ is making a decision to live in a state like that of death; yet, climbing into the coffin and pulling the lid shut simply makes no sense. God tells us that there are alternatives, and He provides us with a better way to approach life. We are instructed to set our minds so that we are steering a course that has the purpose and the precision of piloting a ship or a plane. Thus, we need to go through life focused very clearly and specifically on the Spirit of Christ. It is important to actively and purposefully do this, for it won’t just happen all of the time. We can start every day by pointing our hearts and minds into the center of God’s will for us; then, we can recheck where we are during the day. Finally, we can end each day by seeking God in prayer with our hearts and minds listening attentively to His voice.

 

The life that God wants to lead us to is full of adventure, and it will satisfy us totally. The life that my Lord has planned for me will give me everything that I desire and much more, and it is a life that is characterized by a heart-deep peace that is unbreakable. All of this is there for each of us if we will simply choose to follow the leading of the Spirit.

 

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

Ezekiel 18: 23

 

A lot of people think that God simply does not like them. They believe that He is angry with their life choices, with their attitudes, or simply with them. They stay as far away from God and from anything that is related to Him as is possible. This is understandable for people who don’t know God. It is easy and often natural to have an unclear and a distorted view of the Lord’s character and intent toward people when He is only known about and not known in an intimate way.

 

Sadly, God’s own don’t always help the cause of understanding, either. We lash out in angry words and actions against people who can’t be held to a standard of righteous behavior since they don’t hold the key to righteousness. We approach a discussion about life and lifestyle in a manner that points to the bad behaviors of others and heaps guilt upon their heads. This is not how God does the same things. Behaving as if we are angry with people does not show them the face of God; instead, it pushes them away from Him.

 

The Lord is very concerned with the way that we live, and He sets very clear standards for people’s behavior. Still, He knows that living up to His standards is impossible for people who don’t know Him. God cares about the relationship that people have with Him. He wants all people to know Him personally. The Lord directs His children to show others the truth about Him and His character and to help them understand the reality of the love that God has for everyone. The answer to the evil that is rampant in our world is not anger, and it is not separation leading to isolation. Rather, it is found in loving those who don’t know Christ; it is found in connecting with them and in understanding their needs. God’s response to lost people is demonstrated by his attitude of sadness at their lack of hope, and He commands us to share this concern and to act upon it by sharing the love of Christ with others. The evil of this world needs to be confronted with the soul saving truth of God’s grace and restoration.

 

 

Good understanding produces favor.

Proverbs 13: 15

 

Unfortunately, I have found that developing a level of understanding that is actually good is not all that easy to do. There have been too many occasions when there were still parts left over when the midnight toy building session was finished, and some of those parts were too big and significant looking to label as “extra”. As regards wrong turns and frustration in trying to get somewhere on time when the directions were explained in great detail but I didn’t listen to those details; well, guilty is my plea. It would seem that I have been given far more chances to gain understanding during my life than I have taken advantage of, and my unwillingness to surrender my pride and to take the required time to listen and to study well has resulted in items that don’t work properly, time wasted, hurt feelings, lost opportunity, and damaged relationships.

 

Just as God will take all of the time that we require to help us understand everything that we need to function at a very high level in life, He also wants us to be committed to seeking the understanding that we need. In order to gain understanding of God’s truth, we need to get to know Him well; and like any relationship, it takes time and attention to get to truly know the Lord. We need to read His word in detail and keep on reading it until the details begin to reveal themselves to us. We need to talk with God and listen for His response; then, we need to continue to listen as He continues to clarify and to amplify the wisdom that He is providing.

 

Yet, when we take the time to gain this sort of deep understanding, God promises us that we will receive favor. To me God’s favor is an expression of His grace, for it is not something that I can pay for or earn, and it is something that He wants to grant to people in great abundance. Favor looks and feels like a sense of peace, joy, and contentment that comes from deep inside and that has little connection to life’s circumstances. Still, favor is something that other people will notice even if they can’t define what it is that they are seeing. Favor is to be worn like an exquisite silk scarf that compliments all of our best features, and it comes to us as a present given to us by God in love and in honor of our intimate knowledge of Him.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of our mercies and God of all comfort.

2 Corinthians 1: 3

 

In this short verse Paul addresses two things that everyone needs, for I am not aware of a single individual who is immune to the pain, the heartache, and the stresses of living in this world. This place that we call home is flawed, fractured, and is breaking down under the pressures that sin brings to bear every moment of each day. Satan imposes his deceitful logic and evil intentions into our lives in ways that are, at times, subtle and that can strike with the force of a hurricane. All people fall under the spell of evil; thus, we all need the mercy of a loving, gracious, and redemptive God. Everyone is battered and bloodied by this war that we are caught up in the middle of; so, we all cry out for support, encouragement, and comfort. At day’s end all people need to know the true Comforter.

 

Christ is the answer to all of our needs. When we require restoration from the traps that Satan sets for us, the grace of God that flows from Jesus’ wounds and that covers us like fragrant oil takes our broken spirits and places us in the presence of the Father. As we seek to travel through the war zone of life, God’s word provides the wisdom that we need to fight and to survive, and His Spirit is joined with us for every step of the journey. Still it is inevitable that we will be on the receiving end of painful blows. So, Christ is always there to pick us up, to bind up the wounds, and to provide the strength that we need to continue on.

 

Additionally, as we are the recipients of God’s mercy and comfort, we have the opportunity to bless God by being people who bring the same healing touch to our world. The greatest way to experience the presence of the Lord in our lives is to bring His light into the lives of others. We are not called to be vessels that God fills with His love, grace, and mercy for our own sakes; rather, we are called to be agents of Christ who act in His name and who provide care to the wounded souls that litter the war grounds of our world. As we feel pain and suffer wounds, we are experiencing life as Jesus knew it. Then, as we turn our pain and brokenness over to Christ, He heals us and sends us out to share the truth of God’s restorative love with others.

 

As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.

Psalm 42: 1

 

Think about the various and even contradictory images that water can form in your mind. For me there is the very peaceful one of the smooth surface of a mountain lake at dawn, the sense of refreshment that I find in a fast moving stream, the ribbon of beauty and activity that surrounds a river running through the heart of a city, and the perfect thirst relief that is found in a glass of cool water on a hot day. In contrast my mind can quickly recall images of the power, swiftness, and destruction that water shaped into the form of rain storm, hurricane, or typhoon can bring. Yet water is one of the most elementary and primary needs that we all have. It is something that the very cells of our bodies seek after with a sort of fundamental drive.

 

This same sort of deep seated and fundamental drive is found in all people in regards to our need for God. However, this drive to enter into a relationship with God seems to be one of the areas in the hearts and minds of people where Satan works most diligently and consistently to twist and to pervert. We humans can come up with so many answers to this need that they defy imagination. The reasons that people give for rejecting God, for delaying a decision about Him, and for finding him in various alternative forms are all false ways that they have found to answer this basic calling of their hearts. God speaks to everyone, but only some recognize truth and answer by drinking deeply from His spring of life, the living water who is Jesus.

 

When my soul is feeling the thirst that comes from eating the dust that is kicked up during the contest and the hard work of the day, I need to turn to the refreshing stream of life that is found readily at hand in the presence of the Lord. He invites all to drink deeply and be filled. There is no reason to worry about depleting this reservoir, for it is deeper and wider than all of Creation. Then, when I am filled, I should turn to my neighbor and offer to share the drink. There is no other beverage that satisfies, and there is nothing else that answers this soul-deep need that all people have. So, as we know Jesus, we know the answer to our neighbor’s thirst.

 

Of the Son, God, the Father, says,

“Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”

Hebrews 1: 8 (quoting Psalm 45: 6)

 

We people make decisions about allegiances and memberships all of the time. We join a group that looks like it has common goals and values to us, or we pay the fee and gain admittance into a society that promises to provide us with certain things that we desire to have. Some of these affiliations and relationships are long lasting and some have very short lives; yet, most of us put a significant amount of energy into the process of selecting them and into maintaining them. Still, all of these human connections will suffer from imperfection and instances of failure, and we will wind up abandoning many of them.

 

Here God is pointing the way to entering into the one and the only truly permanent relationship that exists in the universe. God is telling us that Jesus is the ruler of Creation, that His reign has always existed, and that it will never stop. If I want to find consistency, truth, and real durability in this life; then I need to start with the foundation from which all of these things are built. Jesus brings the understanding and the wisdom of eternity to my weak and wandering heart and mind, and He also has the authority, the power, and the desire to actually cause my world to change.

 

Before I sign one more membership application, pledge my loyalty to any other group, or commit to a new affiliation; it would be good to be certain that everything that I am doing fits into Christ’s plan for working through me to redeem this world. He rules the world with righteousness, and He wants all of His people to bring that righteousness with us into every minute of our days. To follow Jesus is to follow the only ruler who will absolutely still be reigning over all at the end of the day. To follow Jesus is to join Eternity’s select group.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

 

This is a truth statement about you and about me and about everyone who knows God; for a relationship with the Creator involves a total change in all of our core forms of identity and expands our connections and affinities by an unimaginably large factor. As we are in Christ, we are also included in this very select but substantial family that occupies God’s household; thus, we are among a group of people that God has committed to love and to protect despite our lack of worth or our unloveliness.

 

When the Lord possesses a person, He doesn’t just grab us and hold us captive. Rather, He wins us over by showing us that He has a love for us that penetrates to the depths of our need and that His love is the only truly unconditional and unchanging one that exists. As we allow the Lord to possess our hearts and our minds, His Spirit works on them to transform us into people who also understand God’s will and who act out of righteous love. It is a part of our human nature to fight back against God’s possession, to hold on to parts of our old ways of viewing life and of living it, but darkness tends to fill these areas where we hold back.

 

One of the best things that we can do to eliminate these dark corners from our hearts is to express our praise for the Lord. This needs to become a daily part of how we live until it is an important part of who we are. Consider the goodness that Christ brings into your life, read of God’s mercy and grace in His word, thank Him for the ways that He has touched the lives of those around you, and develop your own thoughts of the ways that God’s presence infuses your world. Then, start to talk with Him about it. As you let God know how much you notice and value who and what He is to you, He will speak these same truths back to your heart in ways that will make them even clearer and more understandable. The best way to fill your day with light is to continually speak praise for God from your heart. As you do this, He will shine the warming light of peace, joy, and freedom onto every step of your path.

 

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